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Posts Tagged ‘rare books

“oh, it’s a strange magic”*…

A spell for identifying a thief: To find the thief write on a piece of kosher parchment these names [see words at the end of the spell], and hang them around the neck of a black rooster. Then circle around the suspects with the rooster, and it will jump on the head of the thief. And this has been tested.
Kematin kanit kukeiri ve-hikani yazaf

One of the items in our postponed exhibition Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word is a tiny little codex from sixteenth-century Italy. It is entitled The Tree of Knowledge (Ets ha-Da’at) and contains a collection of some 125 magic spells for all sorts of purposes: curses, healing potions, love charms, amulets. There are a good number of such magical-medical manuscripts in the Hebrew collection, but this volume is special for at least two reasons. First, because of its neat layout and accuracy in its execution. Secondly, because it has an introduction in which Elisha the author tells the story of how he collected these spells.

[There follows the story of the compilation and selection of the spells…]

You can certainly see even from this small selection of spells how valuable the Tree of Knowledge is! Elisha’s long journey from Italy to Galilee through the Mediterranean, his painstaking efforts to acquire hidden and ancient knowledge, were not in vain. And you, dear reader, are only one click away from all this treasure!

Disclaimer: We do not take responsibility for the endurance of these spells. Even strong magic can lose or modify its power over the centuries! Please, do not blame us if you turn into a frog. Try these spells only at your own risk…

From the British Library, “The Tree of Knowledge: magic spells from a Jewish potion book

* Jeff Lynne, ELO, “Strange Magic”

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As we contemplate casting, we might recall that it was on this date in 1984 that Dwight Gooden set the record for strikeouts in a season by a rookie– 276 (pitched, in Gooden’s case, over 218 innings). The record, which still stands, was previously held by Herb Score with 246 in 1954.

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Written by LW

September 12, 2020 at 1:01 am

“I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine”*…

 

From Harvard’s Houghton Library (where your correspondent is currently ensconced), a pair of plates (click here for larger) from Jean Errard‘s Instruments mathematiques mechaniques, 1584.  Errard, who was a pioneering mathematician, engineer, and developer of military fortifications, is thought by some scholars to have based these drawings on thoughts from Archimedes.  In any case, they’re a treat.

* Hugo Cabret (in Brian Seltznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret)

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As we muse on mechanization, we might send well-suspended birthday greetings to John M. Mack; he was born on this date in 1864.  At the turn of the 20th century, mack and his brother Augustus developed a successful gasoline-powered sightseeing bus; then in 1905, they joined with three other brothers to form the Mack Brothers Motor Car Company.  They continued to build sightseeing buses, but shifted their focus increasingly to heavy-duty trucks; then, in 1909, they produced the first engine-driven fire truck in the United States.  With financing from J.P. Morgan, the company grew into what we now know as the Mack Truck Company.

 source

 

Written by LW

October 27, 2014 at 1:01 am

What’s better than that “new car smell”?…

 click here for video

From the fine folks at AbeBooks

Walk into a used bookshop and you will encounter the unique aroma of aging books. The smell is loved by some, disliked by others, but where does it come from?

A physical book is full of organic material that reacts with heat, light, moisture and – mostly importantly – the chemicals used in its production. The smell comes from the reaction of the organic material to these factors.

Chemists at University College, London have investigated the old book odor and concluded that old books release hundreds of volatile organic compounds into the air from the paper. The lead scientist described the smell as “A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness”…

More in the notes below the video; and more on book collecting, here.

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As we fondle our folios, we might send bucolic birthday wishes to Scottish-American inventor, naturalist, farmer, explorer, writer and conservationist John Muir; he was born on this date in 1838.  In 1849, the Muir family emigrated to the Midwest of the U.S., where Muir carved clocks and built curious but practical contraptions (like a device that tipped him out of bed before dawn), that won Wisconsin State Fair prizes (1860). But by 1867, he had begun travelling the U.S.– and developing his love for nature in general, and the Sierra Nevada in particular. In his later years he wrote extensively: 300 articles and 10 major books that recounted his travels, celebrated his beloved wild lands, and expounded his naturalist philosophy. Muir drew attention to the devastation of mountain meadows and forests by sheep and cattle, led the effort to establish the Sequoia and Yosemite national parks– and became the “Father of the National Park System.”

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. (source)

Written by LW

April 21, 2012 at 1:01 am

Expressing (among other emotions) gratitude…

On this Day of Thanks (here in the U.S. in any case), it behooves one to call out– indeed, to celebrate– those things that bring warm happiness, that nourish the soul.  Your correspondent humbly nominates “The Book of the Month,” a service of the Special Collections Department of the Library of the University of Glasgow.

There’s no “negative option”– so no unwanted deliveries as a result of failing to post the refusal card– just one wonderful book showcased after another.  This month’s featured tome, appropriately to the anniversary celebrated in (R)D two days ago, is Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872).

Man, Terrified

Chimpanzee, Sulking

Visit the Book of the Month archive and enjoy!

As we browse to our heart’s content, we might recall that it was on this date in 1864 that Oxford mathematician and amateur photographer Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson– aka Lewis Carroll– delivered a handwritten and illustrated manuscript called “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground” to 10-year-old Alice Liddell.  The original (on display at the British Library) was the basis of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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Now that’s something for which to give thanks!

À la recherche du temps perdu…

From the proprietor of Forgotten Bookmarks— and of a rare and used book store for which he purchases many second-hand books:

These are the personal, funny, heartbreaking and weird things I find in those books.

Share his discoveries here.

As we slip between the sheets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that Congress authorized “In God We Trust” as the U.S. national motto.

The phrase had appeared occasionally (as had variations on the theme) on coinage since Civil War times; regularly– despite Theodore Roosevelt’s conviction that it was sacrilegious– from 1908.   But it didn’t appear on bills until 1957…

source: Louisville Courier-Journal

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Written by LW

July 30, 2009 at 12:01 am

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